Needless to say, I miss a great many things about my old life back in the Healthy States of America. At the moment, for instance, I am thinking about all the wonderful amusement parks — Six Flags, Busch Gardens, Disney World — and the great thrill machines thereat, the coasters, the barrel-roll extravaganzas, the centrifuges, the flumes, the whippersnappers that shoot you at bullet-speed through coils of what might be titanium skywriting.
I am thinking of these things because, to be brutally honest here, the rides in Cancerland are unbelievably dull.
The PetScan, for instance, seems promising at first. It takes only one person at a time, which, potentially, ought be, you know, awesome. Also, it occupies an entire supercooled room of its own. And the PetScan operator is not some teenager with a mullet cranking a greasy lever back and forth. No, the operator sits behind a glass panel, is dressed in a crisp uniform, and looks very, very professional. Talks to you through a microphone too. It’s all very Kubrick.
Before the operator takes his or her place behind that glass panel, however, he or she leads you, in the PetScan room itself, up to the actual ride, which is something like a gigantic, white, several-feet-thick letter Q. The tail of the Q, however, is elongated and raised up parallel to the floor, so that, when the right buttons are pressed, it can move back and forth through the center of the Q, with a face-up rider prone upon it.
You can imagine the growing excitement as the operator tells you through the mike, once you have stretched out on the PetScan bed, that you mustn’t move a muscle, and must at all costs keep your arms stretched above your head in what would be the classic stick-em-up pose if you were standing up.
Wow. This is going to be something.
We’re starting now, the operator says.
And then there is a very soft, low but ominous warming-up whirr from the PetScan, a building of energy as it were, a gathering of force…after which…oh, man, here it comes…shut your eyes…get ready for…
Almost nothing. The bed moves at the pace of a Galapagos tortoise through the Q, without the slightest jerk or jarring either when it starts or when it stops. This it does, starts and stops, every five or ten or fifteen minutes, after a move of an inch or three, or sometimes, thrillingly, maybe half a foot. Then it comes back through the Q at the same glacial rate.
In the end, it takes about thirty minutes to make a silky-smooth, totally silent out and back trip, shuttle-style, of, oh, eight feet.
Then the operator comes out from behind the glass panel to ask if you’re okay.
Yeah, you say. Just gimme a minute to catch my breath.
And the PetScan’s one of the better rides.